June 13, 2011

Hana-Saku Iroha Ep11: The Movement

Posted in Hana-Saku Iroha, Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:40 pm by meotwister5

We run. Maybe we always run. When we don’t know what to do, what to feel or even what to say. When you think you know how it all works, that’s when it all starts crashing down, that’s when you start running before you even realize your feet are moving. Some of us go on thinking we we have a clear path and a clear goal in mind, but sometimes really that’s not how the world works. We get so sure of ourselves that when nothing goes our way, we crumble and cry as we speed through the streets we called home. Nothing looks familiar anymore. It’s like everything’s changed. We no longer know what we know and who we know. The world is alien. As the often cliched rain pours and washes away all familiarity and all peace, we can only wonder what is left of us and the life we once knew.

But it is gone. It has moved on.

The magazine reviews are in, and sufficient to say that none of it is flattering. Turns out that all the inns in the area got less than stellar reviews, something that does not sit well with everyone, most especially Ohana. This is her new home of course, and she’d be damned if she’d let anyone wreck it with nary a second thought. What was initially indignation becomes a personal crusade when she eventually learns that it was her own mother who wrote that review, though slightly against her mother’s will. Her mother’s lifestyle has changed yet again, as is her flightful personality, which as usual causes friction between mother and daughter. She decides to fight the power, even if it has to be her mother once again.

And in the middle of it all she meets him. She sees him with another girl, and runs. While Ko makes it clear that he had rejected her confession, she is practically consumed by worry (and perhaps jealousy and guilt?) to even bother clarifying the situation. She ends up criticizing them, to which she realizes she must also criticize herself. And so she runs away from it all. From Ko, from her mother. From everything in the city she had thought she had left behind.

The cliche goes that the apple does not fall far from the tree. This maxim of course does not apply to all situations. As we have seen in the first two episodes, Ohana and her mother could not be any farther than they already are. The apple fell on the other side of the continent, and I’m not exaggerating. Much criticism could be heaped on her mother considering what she’s done, journalistic integrity aside (that’s an issue I’m not touching based on the Animesuki debates). As Ohana has mentioned, she brought down the reputation of the inn with very little first hand experience of her own. It doesn’t matter so much that it’s her family’s inn, but Ohana simply could not for the life of her understand how her mother could sit there and calmly justify her review, even if it was written by her supriors.

Was she right or wrong? The most striking line in their entire conversation was her own admission that she had been doing things she’s hated for years, and it’s these things she hated that kept her working to bring up Ohana. A simple xplanation should suffice, that she indeed continued with a job she hated just to raise her daughter. It put food on the table, kept a roof on their heads, and kept Ohana in school. Does it of course justify her actions? True enough she did it under the orders of her superiors, so the issue itself becomes one of personal ethics over economic reality. In a way, one could deduce that she had sacrificed any sort of principle she had because she had to follow her bosses, who clearly have a vested interest in this.

Right and wrong… the line is never as clear or black and white as we may like. In a way she was right, in a way she was wrong. She believed she had to follow orders because it was necessary, but at the same time had to sacrifice some integrity to get it done. A degree of criticism could also be laid on Ohana’s very delineate views on this subject, but perhaps that is a blog post discussion for another day.

The meat of the episode, for me, is the first real meeting between Ko and Ohana, the final kicker that pushed her into her emotional breakdown. Their relationship had been strained from the moment he admitted her feelings, and none moreso now. There was a bit of everyday familiarity in their email and telephone conversations, but that was due to the impersonal nature of the communication. When it was time to meet, to see the face of the other, things change. The familiarity is lost. The embarassment of direct contact is there and I will personally attest to it. The spectre of Ko’s confession looms over, but more striking is how it looms like a dark cloud over Ohana’s head more than over Ko’s. She dwells on it more than he does. It’s almost like she is affected more than he is. As the awkward conversation moves on, the tension becomes so thick you need a chainsaw to cut through. Ohana tried to learn about his situation and how he should have given her a clear answer, but stops.

The bitter pill of irony is swallowed. As the series moved on from the first two and we are only given small snippets of conversation between the two of them, we are left to wonder if she has really put him in the friendzone. In the absence that has made the heart fonder, she has slowly realized that she had relied on him more than she is able to admit. I had covered that before, but only now does some degree of resentment. Not resentment at Ko or even the girl, but at herself. She had now realized that having a vague answer is even worse than an outright “no”. In the same way Ko had left glasses girl in limbo, Ohana too had left him in limbo because she could not answer. Now she knows that she hurt him in more ways than one, and simply because she could not answer. She knew that she had to give one. That status can no longer remain quo.

But she doesn’t. She runs away instead. Out into the rain, confused and alone. Does she not have an answer, or maybe she does but simply has not found it? Sometimes the answer is closer than any one of us think. Sometimes we already have one, a foregone one, but haven’t figured it out. Which of the above applies to Ohana is still up in the air, but with her final primal scream as the rainy city torments her, I think I already knows. All we need now is for her to also figure it out.

The reason why I titled this post the Movement is simply because, to me, the entire episode was about the movement of the characters. What struck me about the episode was that while city girl Ohana had been in the country barely half a year, so much had changed in the lives of her mother and best friend that she had been left completely lost. The lives of her mother and Ko had been in motion even when she left, and with little or not contact with them through the weeks, in a way she had been left behind. Her return to the city would be greeted less with triumph but with tribulation. In the process of figuring out who wrote that article she was forced to reconnect with the people who had left her behind, and the ones she had herself left behind. So many things had also changed in her mother and her best friend that she had to play cath up to them, and upon realizing (specifically with Ko) that she had been left behind also because of her desire to leave things behind, she could do nothing but worry and run. Again, one of the events that characterizes Ohana: someone who must struggle with the inner desire for change, and the inner desire to let things stay the way they are.

At this point she now knows that she may want some thigns to stay the same, but that is not solely her decision to make. Others have moved. She too says she’s never been moved so much in one day. She has been moved inside, now she must also move outside. We are sure that such movement involves dealing with her mother’s attitude and her strained relationship with Ko, and only time will tell how these stories will pan out. Forgive me if I’m being pretentious, but the episode itself to me feels like a small symbolic microcosm of the entire story itself. In one day we see just what the story of Hana-Saku Iroha is: a tale of a girl in alien surroundings, trying to her best to live her life where it is, and to move forward with it. Perhaps no episode has made that clear more than this.

Ohana now has to go through the aftermath after now realizing that, exactly, that’s what she did to him.  I presume that the next episode will now be the fallout of her little trip down memory lane.

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